Researchers at Oregon State University and the Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) have determined the genomic map of a bacterium known to fight harmful plant pathogens. This breakthrough will help scientists determine how to control plant diseases without using synthetic fungicides.
"Sequencing the genomes of disease-fighting bacteria will enhance our understanding of biological control agents and how we can apply that knowledge in fighting plant pathogens and disease," says Dr. Joseph Jen, USDA under secretary for Research, Education and Economics.
The bacteria, Pseudomonas fluorescens Pf-5, which reside mostly on pears, apples, cotton and vegetables, act as a biological control agent for pathogens that jeopardize plant health. The bacteria help fight against common soilborne diseases such as root and seed rot, tan and dollar spot and Fusarium crown rot.
"This research will help our farmers and ranchers to increase their yields, while benefiting the environment," adds Jen.
Joyce Loper, with USDA's Agricultural Research Service at Oregon State University, and TIGR's Ian Paulsen led the research effort. Scientists want to learn more about how the Pf-5 bacterium benefits the host plant. Most microorganisms are seen as friends or foes. Scientists will compare the genome structure of Pf-5 (a friend) with the genome structure of related harmful bacteria (foes). By focusing on sequences in Pf-5 which are not present in the other bacteria, they can identify genes that are responsible for the biological control of pathogens.
The use of biological control agents, such as Pf-5, is a new trend in controlling plant pathogens and fighting off disease. This new trend may lead to beneficial alternatives to synthetic pesticides.